Paul R. Carlson Jr., Ph.D.
James Ivey, Ph.D.
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Hurricane Michael in October of 2018 was ranked third in intensity out of all the hurricanes that have ever been recorded to strike the United States. It struck in the Panhandle of Florida as a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, and cost close to 30 billion dollars in damage. Damages to the status, health and distribution of seagrass beds, which are a key component of coastal ecosystems globally, have yet to be assessed. For this study, seagrass was digitized and mapped from aerial imagery taken in 2019 of St. Joseph Bay. The goal of this study was to assess the changes in seagrass cover that took place between 2017 and 2019. These changes are a result of Hurricane Michael as well as other drivers of change including but not limited to factors such as water quality, benthic morphology, and possibly other biotic factors. When the mapping was completed, this was compared with seagrass cover maps made of St. Joseph Bay in previous years (1959, 1980, 1992, 2003, 2010, 2015, and 2017). The results of this study suggest that 40.38% of existing seagrass meadows in St. Joseph Bay from 2017 to 2019 experienced a cover decline, 2.49% experienced a cover gain, while 57.13% of seagrass experienced no cover change. It is necessary to monitor them, as they are an invaluable indicator species for both natural and human environments.
Senne, Allison, "Mapping the Effects of Hurricane Michael and Biological Drivers of Change on Seagrass in St. Joseph Bay, Florida" (2020). USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate).